Does God have a body? If so, what kind of? Is His/Her body comparable to ours? And, by the way, do persons have bodies? Or are they identical with their bodies?
The question is intricated, but difficult to avoid, as shown by the last comments (by Roger) to this post. Let me then start with a basic dychotomy:
- The idea that God(s) can have a body similar to ours is fraught with problems. To begin with, if they had one body, how could they receive sacrifices and offerings from people all over the world? More in general, they would be limited by their bodies, which would seriously threaten any claim to omnipotence and omniscience.
- If God(s) have no body at all, then it is difficult to understand how they can act in the material world, since our experience only allows for actions being done either through a body (e.g., a potter makes a pot) or through influence (e.g., a mother makes her —well-trained— 6-years old girl get ready to school by wanting her to do it). But the latter way of accounting for actions only works with conscious agents, not with material ones. Unless you believe in telekinesis, in fact, you will not find any case of my will being able to influence pure matter.
To solve the dilemma, one might postulate that God has Him/Herself created matter and that matter is, thus, obedient to Him/Her. This is not impossible (since it is not contradictory and omnipotence entails that everything which is not logically contradictory is possible for God), but very different from our experience. So much different, that it entails a departure from our being made —as explained in the OT— at God's image. This brings us back to the problem of our relation with our bodies. If it is only accidental and we embrace some form of dualism, then the departure from the image of a bodiless God is not that big. If, by contrast, we maintain that bodies are essential to our being persons (as seems to be suggested by the concept of a resurrection of bodies, which would in the first case be useless), then why has God no body? (The fact that in the Christian account the second person of the Trinity has a human body does not seem to me to solve the problem, since the Son only acquired a body through His human birth.)
Some other authors have tried different solutions. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955, now followed by Vito Mancuso and by Richard Rohr) has spoken of the world as God's manifestation, with Evolution being the completion of His design. In this sense, Sallie McFague has spoken of the world as "God's body". But McFague is quite keen to explain that this usage is purely metaphorical and instrumental to our re-appraisal of the value of the world (and of the bodies) and de Chardin's theology entails a strong departure from the Christian doctrine of the possibility to be saved through the unique event of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Now, let me ask a provoking question:
- If bodies are constitutive of persons,
- if we are made at God's image
- if bodies are the only way we can act on matter
- and given that God is omnipotent in this world and can act on matter according to His/Her will,
Why not assuming that God's body is the world?* That S/He can act on it at will, just like we can move our limbs at will?
The main advantages of this position are that it explains how God can interact with unconscious matter and it maintain the parallelism between human persons and God. It does not end up in Pantheism, since the world is said to be God's body and not directly God. The main disadvantage of this thesis, as I see it, is that it leaves us with an unsolved puzzled, namely: If the whole world is God's body, what are we? Are we part of God's body, although we also have bodies? And can we still have free will, although we are part of God's body? If not, then one of the main reasons for postualting that God has a body, namely the fact that we are done at His/Her image, vanishes…
How do philosophers on the Cocoon look at the issue?